Don’t abuse the First Amendment

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 8, 2011

Invoking the First Amendment has become the go-to move for anyone whose mouth gets them into trouble. The latest example of this is the brouhaha surrounding comments made by Hank Williams Jr. and his subsequent parting of ways with ESPN and Monday Night Football.

In a statement released by the country singer, he declared, “By pulling my opening Oct. 3, You (ESPN) stepped on the Toes of The First Amendment Freedom of Speech, so therefore Me, My Song, and All My Rowdy Friends are OUT OF HERE.”

What Williams and most of the other people who proclaim their First Amendment rights are being taken away need to understand is the U.S. Constitution is a document for and of the federal government. The First Amendment protects citizens from being jailed or persecuted by the federal government for the things they say (as long as they are not of a threatening nature).

So, had the government sent thugs to Williams’ residence to rough him up for his statements, that would have been a violation of his First Amendment rights. Had the government pressured ESPN to fire the singer, that would have been a violation of his First Amendment rights. ESPN, as a private corporation, however, has the right to conduct business as they see fit (as long as in doing so it does not violate someone’s civil rights). ESPN also has the right to project whatever image they see fit and to make sure its employees adhere to this image.

Just about everyone in this country who is not self-employed must adhere to similar conditions.

To put it another way, each citizen in this country can wear T-shirts with whatever slogan on them they wish. And the federal government cannot punish them for it.

An employer, however, has every right to tell an employee to change if that employer finds the T-shirt objectionable on whatever grounds.

The U.S. Constitution is a wonderful document that has survived for so long because of the care taken in crafting it. And the First Amendment is one of the most valuable items contained therein. But to constantly invoke the First Amendment in inappropriate situations does nothing but lessen its value and possibly bring the nation one step closer to being one without such rights.